Did you know that a concussion is classified as a mild traumatic brain injury? Concussions can be the result of a direct hit to the head, a fall, sports accident, car accident, bicycle accident, or work-related injury. It can also occur from forceful neck motion such as whiplash.
The impact to your head or body causes the brain to rapidly move back and forth inside your skull. This can result in bruising, bleeding, swelling, blood vessel damage, nerve damage, and/or long-term brain function impairment. It disrupts the flow of energy to your brain cells. This depletion of available energy is what causes fatigue and other hallmark signs of concussion.
Many people don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion. It often goes untreated because people don’t know when to seek medical attention after a traumatic incident. If left untreated, a concussion can have lasting consequences. Research suggests that sustaining even a single concussion results in a 72% increased risk of developing dementia. [Morrissette, et al.]
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Signs of a Concussion
There are several signs and symptoms of a concussion, ranging from mild to severe, that can present following an accident. However, it is important to note that you may not feel anything unusual for days or even weeks. Because of this, it’s important to monitor for symptoms in the weeks following an accident. If you notice any of the below signs, you should see a concussion trained physical therapist. You can also be proactive and get checked out by a qualified professional to determine if you have any of these.
1. Headache: Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of a concussion. They can develop within hours to days following an accident
2. Dizziness: Feeling dizzy and unbalanced or experiencing blurry or double vision or “seeing stars” after an accident
3. Altered Mental State: Feeling confused, disoriented, foggy or “off” following an accident
4. Amnesia: Inability to remember the events before or after an accident
5. Fatigue/Lethargy: Feeling sluggish, drowsy, or lethargic following an accident
Some symptoms indicate a more serious brain injury and require immediate medical attention. If you experience nausea/vomiting, worsening headache, weakness, significant confusion or altered mental state, slurred speech, loss of coordination or difficulty walking, seizures or loss of consciousness, call 911 or seek medical help ASAP!
Delayed Signs & Symptoms
Following a concussion, some symptoms may present right away. Other symptoms may take hours or days to appear. It’s normal to experience symptoms during the recovery process. However, if you’re not improving after 7-10 days or your condition worsens, you should be evaluated by a concussion trained physical therapist.
You may experience the following symptoms at some point throughout your recovery:
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Depression or sadness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disturbed sleep
- Dizziness or balance issues
- Fatigue / low energy
- Memory issues
- Mood swings / irritability
- Nausea / vomiting
- Neck pain
- Sensitivity to light and/or noise
- Trouble thinking clearly (“in a fog”)
- Visual problems
While these symptoms are common after an injury, they are not normal and could be a sign of concussion. Our physical therapists can help you. Find an Activcore location to get started.
If you believe that you’ve sustained a concussion, check out my next blog on the Do's and Don'ts of concussion recovery.
Morissette MP, Prior HJ, Tate RB, et al. Associations between concussion and risk of diagnosis of psychological and neurological disorders: a retrospective population-based cohort study. Fam Med Com Health. Published online July 27, 2020. doi:10.1136/fmch-2020-000390
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.